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Back to school means back to work for KCSO dog Elsa

Posted: August 20, 2015 6:34 p.m.
Updated: August 21, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Sgt. Mike Lyons takes KCSO K-9 drug dog Elsa on rounds through the Lugoff-Elgin Middle School parking lot Monday, the first day of school for county students. Elsa is now fully trained to detect not only marijuana, but coke, crack, heroin, methamphetamine and ecstasy. Her reward for her hard work: playing with her favorite toy.

While school went back in session in Kershaw County this week, it was back to work for Elsa, a Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) K-9 and her handler, Sgt. Mike Lyons. Lyons is the supervisor for the KCSO’s school resource officers (SROs). Elsa is a 2-year-old German Shepherd donated to the KCSO by Beverly Conley of Blythewood in December 2013.

Lyons trained Elsa in obedience and marijuana detection, but she needed more intense professional training to also have the ability to detect other illegal drugs. She went through that training this summer, thanks to $4,000 raised with a steak dinner in March by Kershaw Masonic Lodge No. 29. 

Lyons said Elsa completed the eight-week training in North Carolina about a month before the first day of school. Lyons used that month to work with Elsa, getting ready to go back to work. 

“She is certified in narcotic detection of marijuana, coke, crack, heroin, methamphetamine and ecstasy. I’ve been working with her daily, training, but her primary function is to be in the schools,” Lyons said Monday at Lugoff-Elgin Middle School. “We actually used her when we had a search warrant, so we stay busy. She loves to go to work. From the first day of school until the last day, she’ll be somewhere.”

Lyons said not all dogs are suitable for law enforcement work, but Elsa is enthusiastic and loves to work. He said she considers it play and her reward for a job well done is time spent with a favorite toy.

“When she gets her toy, she’s like it’s the best thing ever. So, when I put her on a search, I tell her to ‘find it.’ She will search and if she finds something she gets her reward, which is a toy on a rope and I’ll throw it and she will chase that thing until she collapses,” Lyons said. “The dog has to have this work drive. It’s her desire to want to play, and the play is the reward for doing her job.”

As the SRO supervisor, Lyons is not assigned to any particular school, so he and Elsa may show up at any school in the county. He said the mere presence of the dog serves as a deterrent to drug possession, as offenders know the likelihood of being caught rises when Elsa is around.

Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said Elsa is a positive presence in the schools and shows the good relationship the district has with law enforcement.

“It’s a real asset to have the trained dog here locally and not depend on another entity for it. It’s a good, proactive, preventive thing. The dog is really good around kids and is a real asset,” Morgan said. “I am so grateful to the community for stepping up and making it happen. It’s another example of how effective the schools and law enforcement together are in this county. This is the best operating relationship I have ever seen.”

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